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Anti-Photo by michael ,  Nov 25, 2012

Russian billionaire installs anti-paparazzi lasers on super-yacht

Roman Abramovich's $US1.2 billion mega-yacht, top, and the miniature submarine it houses.

The price of privacy ... Roman Abramovich's $US1.2 billion mega-yacht, top, and the miniature submarine it houses.

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has upgraded his new $US1.2 billion luxury yacht with an anti-paparazzi laser shield to protect his privacy while he's cruising the high seas.

The move has caused consternation among photographers, who claim they may have grounds for legal action.

The lawyer added that protection of privacy might not be an adequate justification here because "there are no private places on the ocean".

Abramovich, 42, installed the high-tech system on his Eclipse mega-yacht, which, measuring 170 metres, is the biggest and most expensive private yacht in the world.

It has two swimming pools, two helipads, a miniature submarine and massive home cinema systems in each of the 24 guest rooms.


Its hull and windows are missile-proof and, reports Britain's The Times, it will soon be fitted with a missile-defence system in France.

It is understood the strong defences, which include a large militarily trained security team, were developed to prevent piracy.

The laser shield is able to scan for electronic light sensors used in digital cameras, known as charge-coupled devices. If it detects a camera nearby, it automatically fires a bolt of light, rendering the camera unable to take a picture.

It is unclear if the technology can block photographs taken by older analogue cameras.

The new yacht, which ended up costing double the intended price, set sail from Hamburg last week.

The move to install the laser shield has angered photographers, who often get their most valuable shots by snapping celebrities and their guests cavorting on their yachts in exotic locations.

Online news site Amateur Photographer quoted a British media lawyer who claimed photographers might be entitled to claim compensation under laws preventing "intermeddling with goods belonging to someone else".

The lawyer added that protection of privacy might not be an adequate justification here because "there are no private places on the ocean".

Similar shield technology was unveiled in July by a New York University student in the form of an "anti-paparazzi" purse. The effect in photographs is similar to shining a torch in someone's face.

Abramovich, whose net worth is $US8.5 billion, has four other large boats, leading the media to dub his fleet "Abramovich's navy".

He already owns the world's largest private jet, a Boeing 767 dubbed "the bandit", three Eurocopter helicopters, two bomb-proof Maybach 62 limousines and several luxury sports cars.

Abramovich, who lives in Britain, is the owner of the Chelsea Football Club and the private investment company Millhouse.

Like others in Russia's elite, he lost billions as a result of the global financial crisis, but this has evidently not killed his appetite for expensive toys

Photography From The Future: Anti Photography Systems

About two ago Times broke with a piece about how Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has an anti-paparazzi system built on his new Yacht. This triggered a bunch of follow up posts from technology and photography blogs covering the story.

The system is described to work by detecting the CCD of an camera using lasers and shinning a bright beam of light onto the CCD rendering any image burned.

Many of the commentators were skeptic about whether or not a system like this can really exist, so we decided to take a tour to the realm of anti photography systems. Click any of the images for more info.

The Passive: Rretroreflective Tape

Rretroreflective materials have an interesting feature. They reflect light back at the where the light was originated from. You often see them on car bumpers or emergency stairs.

This quality makes refractive tape the perfect material for a very basic (and somewhat awkward) system. Simply wear some tape around your head and any on camera flash pointed at you will be zapped with enough light to make your face covered it flare. It maybe could be used as an anti paparazzi celebrity accessory, provided you can find a celebrity willing to wear a retroreflective bandana.

retroreflective headband

The Responsive: Camoflash

This is another simple idea that most Strobist practitioners can probably implement on their own. The Camoflash from Adam Harvey is a purse fitted with a powerful LED strobe. Once the bag detects a burst of light coming from an external flash, it gives out a burst of its own causing the resulting image to be overexposed.

The Responsive: Camoflash

The Activist: Eclipse's Laser Shield

And here we are back with Roman Abramovich's new Yacht - Eclipse. Supposedly equipped with special lasers that can detect camera sensors and squirt them with light bright enough to nuke a photo.

The concept is not new and researches at the Georgia Institute of Technology built a prototype for a similar system back at 2006. Their prototype use a couple of cameras to triangulate the CCD (which, so comfortably, is retroreflective) analyze its shape and blast it with a ray of light. But they do talk about a possible improvement that uses infrared Lasers to locate the camera.

Back at 2006, the research group still did not find a way to defeat DSLRs which only expose their sensor fir a brief moment (say 1/500 of a second) while shooting.

But, then again, maybe Abramovich has access to military grade technology that we are not even aware of. The F117 stealth aircraft, for example, was conceived at 1977 but exposed to the public on 1988, so who knows what technology is available today.

The Activist: Eclipse's Laser Shield

Russian Billionaire Installs Anti-Photo Shield on Giant Yacht

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has a rather curious new addition built in to his latest oversized yacht. The 557-foot boat Eclipse, the price tag of which has almost doubled since original plans were drawn to almost $1.2 billion, set sail this week with a slew of show-off features, from two helipads, two swimming pools and six-foot movie screens in all guest cabins, to a mini-submarine and missile-proof windows to combat piracy.

It might not seem like somebody with such ostentatious tastes would crave privacy, but along with these expensive toys, Ambramovich has installed an anti-paparazzi “shield”. Lasers sweep the surroundings and when they detect a CCD, they fire a bolt of light right at the camera to obliterate any photograph. According to the Times, these don’t run all the time, so friends and guests should still be able to grab snaps. Instead, they will be activated when guards spot the scourge of professional photography, paparazzi, loitering nearby.

We dig it, although the British courts might not be so pleased. UK photo magazine Amateur Photographer asked a London lawyer about the legalities of destroying photos from afar. Here’s what he said: “intermeddling with goods belonging to someone else, or altering their condition, is a trespass to goods and will entitle the photographer to claim compensation without having to prove loss.”

Any sentence containing the word “intermeddling” is of course wonderful. The lawyer spoils it somewhat by (inevitably) mentioning James Bond and mixing up lasers with laser guns: “I would also be worried that lasers cause collateral damage, both to the camera and/or the claimant’s health.”

Can Abramovich's anti-paparazzi laser shield work?

Probably not, according to its Georgia Tech inventors

By Mark Harris  September 22nd 2009Can Abramovich's anti-paparazzi laser shield work?
Even laser beams can't protect against tabloid snappers

Related stories

Billionaire Roman Abramovich shouldn't rely on an anti-paparazzi laser shield to protect his privacy on board his new super-yacht: it probably won't work on most digital SLRs or any film snappers.

In a write-up of Abramovich's £725 million Eclipse boat, The Sunday Times revealed that the Chelsea boss had invested in a system that "fires a focused beam of light at camera's CCDs, disrupting its ability to record a digital image."

However, researchers at Georgia Tech university in the USA who developed a very similar system in 2006 warned that it would be unable to protect against the digital SLRs used by most news photographers.

News flash

Professor Gregory Abowd's system used off-the-shelf equipment - camera-mounted sensors, lighting equipment, a projector and a computer - to scan for, find and neutralise digital cameras. The system worked by looking for the reflectivity and shape of the CCD sensors used in some digital cameras.

It worked on the principle that CCDs are retroreflective - they reflect light directly back at its source, like road signs. This allows a laser to scan for them, detect its own reflection and increase the power to effectively blind the sensor momentarily.

However, the Georgia Tech system was designed to work in a dark cinema, seeking out would-be pirates filming movies on domestic video cameras, where the CCD sensor is exposed many times a second. How effective it would be in bright sunlight is less clear. "The biggest problem is making sure we don't get false positives from, say, a large shiny earring," said a researcher on the project, Jay Summet.

Summet also warned that such camera-neutralising tech may never work against single lens reflex cameras, which use a folding mirror that masks the CCD except when a photo is actually being taken. Moreover, anti-digital techniques don't work on conventional film cameras because they have no image sensor. Also, many modern SLRs now use CMOS rather CCD sensors.

Still, Abramovich shouldn't feel too hard done by. The 557-foot Eclipse still boasts a mini submarine, two helipads and a missile defence system...